Photographing Sunflowers near the San Francisco Bay Area - Tips & Tricks
Photographing Sunflowers - Tips, Tricks, & Pics
Photographing fields of sunflowers in Northern California has been on my bucket list for a LONG time! But personal projects always seem to take a back seat. Can you relate?
Being a full-time Family, Senior Portrait, Bar & Bat Mitzvah, and Wedding Photographer here in the San Francisco Bay Area doesn't leave a lot of free time, but with all the recent changes in the event industry, personal projects have become my therapy.
SOOOOO, last weekend on Father's Day, I invited my dad (a photography enthusiast himself) to check off that bucket list item, and join me on a photo shoot in the sunflowers.
The Key to Great Sunflower Photos
Catching sunflower fields at their peak is the key to great photos. Selecting a location for our shoot took a lot of googling and searching through Instagram and Facebook. I finally selected M3 Ranches (also called Muller Ranch) in Woodland, CA.
After our shoot, I realized just how tricky photographing the fields can be. And now, you get the benefit of my experience!
Here are my top Tips & Tricks with example photos to help you get the best possible sunflower shots.
General Tips for Photographing Sunflowers
Where to Find Sunflowers:
Yolo County is the place to be! Here are a few of the best sunflower fields.
M3 Ranches (Muller Ranch) - Woodland, CA - Great trees in the middle of the field at sunset. A bit off-the-beaten-path. Check their Facebook page for sunflower updates and dm them for permission.
Here are the exact coordinates on Google Maps to take you right there: https://goo.gl/maps/wJb5jFD8fvs62LSSA
Dixon, CA - 8747 Currey Rd, Dixon, CA 95620 - Check online for reviews first as I read this field was cut down early this year. But photos look amazing!
UC Davis - I've read you'll find sunflower fields driving on the outskirts of UC Davis.
When to Go:
July is typically when sunflowers peak in Yolo County. But this year, M3 Ranches planted early, so mid-June was ideal. Keep checking websites as peaks vary year-to-year.
Time of Day:
SUNSET! Colors pop, flowers are backlit, and fewer bees. Midday light is way too harsh. We arrived an hour before sunset to shoot close-ups and details until the light softened.
Sunflower Trivia (and photography tip) - Did you know sunflowers follow the sun? They actually face the direction of the sun... until sunset that is. That's when they turn back away from the sun, waiting for it to come up again the next morning. And that's why you see them facing the camera in these shots!
Photography Tips for Shooting Sunflowers
Gear I used:
Camera - Canon 5D MkIII
Lenses - 16-35, 24-70, 70-200, Fisheye (and if you like super close-up shots with bees, bring a Macro lens!)
Tripod - Gitzo
Nice to Have - ND (Neutral Density) and/or Polarizing filter. I did not use filters, but with bright backlight in a cloudless sky, would be very useful.
Wish I Had - Ladder! Forgot to bring one. With tall sunflowers, would have been cool to get a higher perspective. Over the head works if you're not vertically challenged like me!
How to Shoot:
Here are some examples:
Tight Shots, Playing with Composition
Wide Shot - Panoramic Crop
Shoot Low - Fill the Frame when the sky is too bright
My primary goal for this shoot was to get great landscape shots, but I was a little sad that I didn't spend more time getting close-up macro shots. Next time!
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I hope you enjoyed this Blog as much as I enjoyed creating it! Have you ever spent time in the sunflower fields? Have you found a great location?
Leave a Comment and tell me all about it!
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Keywords: 3M Ranches, cheryl bigman photography, landscape photography, northern california photography, northern california sunflowers, photography tips and tricks, sunflower fields, sunflower landscapes, sunflower photography, sunflowers, visit yolo, woodland, yolo county
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